The Yarn Swap event is a participatory, informal gathering centred on the act of storytelling and sharing. Developed from an event called Bring Your Own Archive that has been hosted in Europe and Australia since 2012, and developed further in Berlin, the Yarn Swap invites participants to bring an object that means something to them or has a story embedded in it. This could be an object, a song, a photograph or a story.

 

All images: Les Graetz

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The Bring Your Own Archive began at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival (UK). This focused on visual archives such as 8mm films and photographs. Films and slides were watched communally and photographs were strung up on cord around the room. The gatherings explored and record the smaller, quieter histories that are not remembered and commemorated in traditional heritage institutions and point to a connection to the materiality of film that is in stark contrast to digital viewing habits. 

As part of the collective Screen Bandita, this event toured the UK and to experimental film festivals in Europe. In Berlin a new format was tested, extending the material brought from visual archives to anything at all. Objects included a collection of postcards from a loved one, a 35 mm camera, some video footage of a demolition and a wedding dress. The afternoon was a communal success and sowed the seeds for the Yarn Swap.

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The first Yarn Swap was held in Rainbow as part of their Oasis Festival 2018 (Regional Arts Victoria’s Small Towns Transformations funding programme). It  was an afternoon of yarns, jokes, empathy and curiosity. A song, some stones, a debutante dress and a tape recording were all shared and reflected upon. The activity draws upon the community's own personal archive, but also connects to the interrelated nature of all of our personal histories through cups of tea and reflection. Participant Ruth Gosling said, “It was a grand afternoon spent listening to and watching people, local and otherwise, relating to each other different stories and events gathered over their lifetimes. We are all different, but such a day shows we are all the same!”

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“It was lovely to share the story and recording from Shirley’s letter about her travelling adventure’s many years ago”

Adelle Rohrsheim, Oasis Community Arts Project Manager – Small Town Transformations Rainbow.

“The Oasis (the old Primary School) was a stimulating setting for an event such as the Yarn Swap.  We are all different, but such a day shows we are all the same! A very entertaining afternoon where humour and pride won the day!”

Ruth Gosling, Rainbow Archive volunteer, and Peter Gosling, Yarn Swap participant. 

"How a memory can be rekindled by some old article. In my case by an empty wheat bag and a bag filler-rammer. Thoughts returned  to taking bags off a header and later filling, naming and sewing, ready to be carted and stacked at the railhead. Remembering the wheat stacks and those who stacked them. A time to share those memories."

Geoff Hocking, Yarn Swap participant.

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